Teacher hiring

Teacher shortage turnaround? Indiana sees higher demand for licenses than last year

PHOTO: Denver Post file

After a couple years of Indiana schools fretting that there aren’t enough teachers to fill every classroom, the state is now seeing an uptick in the number of people becoming teachers.

In 2016, 4,552 college grads earned their initial practitioner licenses, the credential that first-time teachers, administrators and other educators need to work in an Indiana school.  That’s an 18 percent increase over 2015, when 3,843 educators earned the license, but still down 20 percent from 2010 when there were 5,685 licenses issued.

“Now more than ever, Indiana needs more individuals to choose teaching as a profession, “ said state Superintendent Glenda Ritz in a news release today.

The increase comes despite the failure in the legislature last spring of several bills that were intended to address a teaching shortage that has affected schools in urban and rural areas, particularly in hard-to-fill subject areas such as science, math, foreign language and special education.

Bills considered by the legislature would have made changes to teacher mentoring programs and pay, among other things, but the only measure to pass was a smaller-scale scholarship bill that, beginning this year, sets aside up to $7,500 per year for 200 high-achieving students across the state to go to college each year to become teachers.

Measuring the extent of the teacher shortage in Indiana is a complicated task.

Changes to reporting rules and how data is collected both in the state by the education department and nationally through college submissions, for example, make some data sets slightly different and difficult to compare.

Last year, some Indiana districts reported problems finding teachers and keeping them in the classroom, but despite many debates and a 49-member panel created by Ritz that was dedicated to finding solutions, legislators took little action, passing just two laws that aligned with the panel’s recommendations.

But not every school or district is having trouble hiring, and data on whether the state is seeing a true teacher shortage is inconclusive and doesn’t span every region or subject. Some national experts and researchers even say the notion that there are teacher shortages, both in Indiana and across the nation, have been vastly overstated for years.

Ritz reiterated statements she made earlier this summer that addressing teacher shortages will still be a priority during next year’s legislative session.

“Today’s numbers show that the first steps of healing have begun, but we have more work to do,” Ritz said in today’s release. “I look forward to working with the legislature and the next governor to ensure that every Hoosier student has access to an excellent educator by systematically addressing the needs of the teaching profession.”

For more information on state teacher shortages, check out these Chalkbeat stories:

Training teachers

More literacy coaches to bolster Tennessee’s drive to boost student reading

PHOTO: Alan Petersime

More than half of its school districts signed on last year when Tennessee created a network of literacy coaches to help classroom teachers improve their students’ reading.

Now entering the program’s second year, another 16 districts are joining up. That means two-thirds of Tennessee districts will have instructional supports in place aimed at addressing the state’s lackluster reading levels.

Tennessee has a reading problem. Less than half of its students in grades 3-8 were considered proficient in 2015, the last year for which test scores are available. In Memphis, the numbers are even more stunning. Less than a third of Shelby County Schools’ third-graders are reading on grade level.

PHOTO: Marta W. Aldrich
Gov. Bill Haslam speaks during the statewide launch of Read to be Ready in 2016.

The state wants to get 75 percent of third-graders proficient by 2025. (New scores coming out this fall will help track progress.)

The coaching network is a major component of Tennessee’s Read to be Ready drive, launched in 2016 by Gov. Bill Haslam and Education Commissioner Candice McQueen. The focus is helping teachers improve literacy instruction for the state’s youngest students.

So far, some 200 coaches have worked directly with more than 3,000 teachers in 83 districts, including all four urban districts. This fall, 99 out of the state’s 146 school systems will participate.

About 92 percent of classroom teachers report that coaching is improving their teaching, even as many coaches say they are stretched too thin, according to a state report released Wednesday. Inadequate planning time for teachers is another barrier to success, the report notes.

To join the coaching network, districts must commit to funding a reading coach who will support about 15 teachers. New districts signing up this year are:

  • Scott County Schools
  • Smith County School System
  • Pickett County Schools
  • Jackson County Schools
  • Macon County Schools
  • Clay County Schools
  • Sumner County Schools
  • Dyer County Schools
  • Wayne County Schools
  • Bedford County Schools
  • Benton County Schools
  • Alamo City School
  • Polk County Schools
  • Kingsport City Schools
  • Oak Ridge Schools
  • Dayton City School

A complete list of participating districts can be found here.

Getting there

With new contract, first-year teachers in Detroit could soon make more than peers in Grosse Pointe and other suburbs

PHOTO: Detroit Public Schools Community District
First-year teachers in Detroit could soon earn more than their peers in neighboring districts. The gray bar in this chart shows where starting salaries were in Detroit last year. The green one shows how the contract could change that.

For years, Detroit’s main school district has paid some of the lowest starting teacher salaries in the region but Superintendent Nikolai Vitti says that’s about to change.

The teachers contract approved by the Detroit school board Tuesday night doesn’t include enough of a pay increase to bring city teachers back to where they were in 2011 when a state-appointed emergency manager ordered a 10 percent pay cut.

But data compiled by the Detroit district show that the new agreement, which will boost teacher wages by more than 7 percent, would pay enough that starting teachers could soon earn more than their peers in Dearborn, Grosse Pointe and other nearby districts.

“It doesn’t begin to address the injustice [of pay cuts and frozen wages] but this is a first step,” Vitti told the board as it met at Osborn High School Tuesday.

The new contract was approved last month by members of the Detroit Federation of Teachers union. Now that the school board has signed off, the contract will go to a state financial review board for final approval.

Vitti, who hopes the higher salaries will make it easier for the district to fill more than 400 vacant teaching positions, showed the board a series of charts and graphs that illustrated some effects of the new contract.

Among the charts he flashed on a screen was one that compared starting teacher salaries in Detroit to other districts, before and after the new contract. Another slide showed how salaries would change for teachers at every level of the pay scale. A third warned that the city’s main district could be careening toward a “cliff” if it doesn’t recruit enough young teachers to replace the district’s predominantly senior educators as they begin to retire.

See the charts — and additional details about the contract — below. The last page spells out other steps Vitti says he plans to take to address the teacher shortage.